Strikes next if Govt ignores protest

By Genevieve Helliwell

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More than 800 Western Bay teachers and supporters marched through central Tauranga in a protest against proposed changes to New Zealand's education system.

Education professionals, school support staff, parents and supporters from the Bay of Plenty took to the streets on Saturday to protest the Government's education agenda, introducing charter schools, league tables and privatisation of education.

Tauranga mum Kerrin Andrews and her 12-year-old son, Liam, were involved in the protest, which wove its way from Second Ave down Devonport Rd, to a rally at Wharf St at The Strand. Liam held a Tui-inspired sign which read: "Standardised testing won't mean teaching the test...yeah right."

More than 10,000 people took part in marches held throughout the country, led by the New Zealand Educational Institute (NZEI) Te Riu Roa.

Bay of Plenty field officer Rachel Chater told the Bay of Plenty Times Novopay, charter schools, league tables,and privatisation of education were jeopardising the industry.

"Teachers don't want to impact negatively on parents through striking if they don't have to and this is one step before that," she said.

"I really hope the Government listens to us and takes our concerns seriously and they should, seeing as thousands of people marched around the country and that just shows how important this is. It would be pretty ignorant for them not to listen considering the amount of support this has gained."

Mrs Chater said the strong turnout to Saturday's protest showed the community was beginning to support those in the industry.

"I think there's been a real turn in the community where people are now beginning to understand the challenges the education industry is facing," she said.

NZEI Te Riu Roa president Judith Nowotarski said the Government's policies would lead to increased inequality and have disastrous consequences for struggling students.

"We need the Government to understand that New Zealanders don't want to follow failed policies from overseas - policies such as charter schools, competition versus collaboration between schools and teachers, league tables, National Standards and winner and loser schools.

"We certainly hope that this time the Government will listen to people and start to make a commitment to retaining and enhancing our world-leading public education system instead of current policies which will undermine it."

After the protest, NZEI immediate past president Ian Leckie, principal of Tahatai Coast School, addressed the crowd, followed by personal stories from Te Puke Intermediate teacher Stephen Knightly, Trish Hunt from Fairhaven School and Marion Dekker from the Tauranga Regions Kindergarten Association.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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